Listen: Brandon talks about what he first learned about Black masculinity and what it means to be a man. Music: Driftnote. Audio editing: Omar Rivero. Audiograms: Al Donato.
One might say that Brandon Hay is both a jack of all trades and a master of many. The proud father of three boys is the founder of the Black Daddies Club, co-creator of the Black Love Matters Un-Conference course, which he taught at York University in Toronto, where he also completed graduate school, earning a Masters in Environmental Studies and certificate in Environmental Business.
With energy to spare, Brandon is the co-curator of the recent Journey To Black Liberation Symposium and The Black Liberation Ball at Harbourfront Centre, the second annual symposium he has held in that space, done in partnership with organizers within Black LGBTQ2S communities. Outside of these community projects, Brandon works full-time as the Training and Outreach Manager for Building Up, a social enterprise located in Toronto.
Brandon is a strong believer in equitable and innovative approaches to community work, and does his own work from within an intersectional lens when it comes to issues of marginalization.
What is Black masculinity?
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I think that piece around redefining Black masculinity — it is constant work and it is a constant journey.
What did you first learn about Black manhood?
Masculinity was: you had a big cock, you had a lot of money, you had a lot of women, potentially you had a lot of babies or baby moms. Whether you can take care of them or not, that is secondary.
What are you presently learning or unlearning about Black masculinity?
[The work of unlearning] starts with myself and through my three sons. There is a constant conversation. Not just even conversation, [but] the way that I live my life and the books that I read and the conversations and what I expose them to. And I get push back from family members because not everyone has my views.
But I see what living in this small box, or Black masculinity box, what it does for other Black men that I am out there existing with. It is killing us, and because of Black masculinity we can't be vulnerable so it is killing us in silence.
It was problematic when I was in Black spaces. Whether it was a church or a barbershop or wherever, and then you are alienating another sub-sector of our community because of identity or sexuality ...
So what happens when we don't have elders in our community or other Black men in our community or any kind of structural piece around any kinds of rites of passage that shows us how to be mature Black men? We have a situation where we see Black men in their 50s and their 60s still acting like they're youths.
I am guilty of that. I do it until my body can't take it. What maybe I should have stopped when I was 18, I still continued that in my 30s until my body said yo, B, you need to switch up.
And so, all these different things, whether it is like depression ... it can manifest in our bodies and manifest in our lives and we ignore it.
If we are talking about Black masculinity, we have to talk about healing, because daily, we are getting injected [with] and exposed to a bunch of hate — hate Black men, Black men are not shit.
If I know what it is like to be oppressed why would I oppress someone from within my community?
And we are talking about Black men who are cis, straight Black men. Not to mention if I am a gay Black man, not to mention if I am a trans Black man.
We have a bunch of different entry points, and there has to be space for us to have conversations with each other.
In this moment, that’s what Black masculinity means to me. There has to be a critical hope to it.
But, I also recognize if we move in this way of not supporting each other, then it is going to get dark before it gets good.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
In this series on Black masculinity, we speak to a number of Black men on what masculinity means to them, what they have learned or are in the process of unlearning, and how Black manhood reimagined has presented itself in their lives and work.
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